Friday, January 7, 2011

Queen Victoria and the Devil

Even in low water, Victoria Falls is impressive. In November 1855, David Livingstone became the first white man to see the falls and wrote in his journal, "Scenes so lovely must have been gazed upon by angels in their flight." He named the Falls after the Queen of England, Victoria. The locals had known about the falls for a long time and used the name "Mosi oa Tunya," which means "the smoke that thunders."

The Falls are the longest in the world, at just over 1.7 kilometers. 1 kilometer is within the borders of Zambia and the remaining 700 meters is in Zimbabwe. It is not like any other waterfall I have seen. The water falls into a crevice between Zambia and Zimbabwe. We could easily see tourists on the Zimbabwe side, and they could not have been more than 200-400 meters away.
The one thing I really wanted to do at the falls is to walk across them. In the low water season, it is possible to walk across much of the 1km on the Zambian side. We hired a few guides and went as a group. Sometimes we were 100 meters away from the falls and others, we could walk right up to the edge and look down.
It took the group a few hours to get across but the views were incredible.
Most of the rocks you see in the pictures will be completely covered by water during the high water season and it would be impossible to do the walk then.
The highlight of the trip though, was a place called "Devil's Pool." It is a small pool that has a small rock wall which effectively prevents much water from going over. Think of it like an infinity pool. During the low water season, you can swim literally at the edge of Victoria Falls.
We walked over the main falls and then swam out to a small outcropping of rocks that sit just above Devil's Pool. The guides showed us where it was safe to jump and where it wasn't and then we all took turns jumping in.
The pool was quite deep and even though I was not in any danger of being washed over, the current was still quite strong and it pushed me through the water up against the rock wall. We sat and enjoyed the view and tried to take it all in. Across the ravine, a small group of tourists on the Zimbabwe side gathered to watch us. I am sure we horrified them by seemingly jumping into the main falls.
Our guides were seemingly fearless. One stood on the rock wall with water rushing over it the whole time to watch us. Behind him was a 100 meter drop. One person asked if he was scared. He simply shrugged, smiled and said, "This is my office."

We all did another jump or two, took some pictures, and then headed back. This was easily the coolest thing I have done in Africa. I look at the pictures now and I still have a hard time believing that we did it.